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Medicaid Dental Program Fails to Heal Nation's Toothache

Saturday, September 27, 2008 General News J E 4
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CHICAGO, Sept. 26 Oral Health America is calling onpolicymakers to address failures in our nation's public health insurancesystem to keep children healthy and ready for school. Tooth decay, a diseasethat affects almost half of all second graders, and almost 80 percent of17-year-olds, is the number one unmet health need among children in the UnitedStates. A new report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO),revealed that a third of all children covered by Medicaid received no dentalcare, and approximately 6.5 million children in Medicaid have untreated toothdecay.

"A healthy mouth is vital part of overall health," said Beth Truett,President and CEO of Oral Health America. "Left untreated, tooth decay cancause pain, impact nutrition and school performance, and affect overallhealth. In the midst of debate about an unprecedented bailout of financialsystems, I urge our Congressional leaders not to loose focus on the fact thatthere are families who are in an ongoing state of financial crisis, and tohelp them obtain the services they need, including dental care."

The GAO report, commissioned in 2007 after two young boys died fromcomplications resulting from untreated tooth decay, estimates that in 2005,1.1 million children aged two through 18 in Medicaid had conditions thatwarranted seeing a dentist. The report also found that approximately 724,000children in Medicaid could not obtain needed care.

Oral Health America urges support for the specific oral health measuresincluding:

"A number of states are engaged in law suits for failing to provide dentalcare to families who need it," adds Beth Truett. "The problem of access todental care, like tooth decay, is not going to go away on its own. Let uswork together to promote oral health and avoid further litigation."

Oral Health America is dedicated to eliminating oral disease througheducation and access to care. For more information, visithttp://www.oralhealthamerica.org.-- School oral health services that include the placement of dental sealants; -- Community water fluoridation; -- Programs that promote "dental homes" providing a routine source of continuous, comprehensive care; -- Programs that engage physicians and nurses in addressing oral disease.

SOURCE Oral Health America
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